We made our way out of Long Dong and went to the Shi Lin Night Market (市林夜市)。 It was definitely a large night market, but we were not impressed with the lack of food there, especially lack of sweet potato fries. Things were reasonably priced there though, and we bought some t-shirts there for 250 NT a piece. Then we made our way to eat sushi. We went to one of the conveyer belt sushi bars. I enjoyed the food, but I am not but of a sushi expert. We ended up eating 43 plates of sushi between the three of us. Then we stayed at the Shen Went Hotel (神旺飯店). It was nice to have a real shower for once.
On Thursday we took Matt to the airport. He seemed to enjoy his stay and the food grew on him overtime. Then we made our way to the Taipei Zoo. The most unique part about this Zoo it showed all of the Formosan big game animals, and it had pandas. It also had the usual insects, lions, elephants, giraffes, penguins, and children. We wanted to go on the gondola, but it happened to be closed, and the National Palace Museum that we planned to go to that evening closed at 6:30, so we went to the 101 instead. It was impressive to see at night, but not much different from the 85. And we hadn’t ever lived in Taipei so we didn’t really care to be honest. That ended our day. We stayed at our friend’s house that night, then in the morning returned the car; the rental company charged us an extra 700 NT for driving on the highway, but didn’t mention any tickets. Then we took a bus to Kaohsiung, our home, through Ubus 統聯客運, which was about 200 NT cheaper than the train.
Sun Moon Lake 日月潭
Next we went to Sun Moon Lake. It rained the whole time, and it was foggy. We checked out the shops there, but didn’t find anything we particular wanted to buy. We went to the 慈恩塔(Ci En Pagota), but we couldn’t see much because of the fog. And we took a power nap there. Then we went to the main temple on the lake, which was impressive, but not unlike any other temple we had seen. We had enough time, so we decided to go to Lugang （鹿港） from there. It took a while to find the night market in Lugang, but we eventually did. There we found a scroll shop and each bought landscape painting scrolls and had fun bargaining with the owner, and ended up buying scrolls for 500 kuai a piece. We had some delicious shrimp and some good 便當。Then we made our way back to Nantou for the night.
Nantou Skybridge 猴探井天空之橋
Next we made our way to a Buddhist monetary with a nice view of Nantou, but which we agreed shouldn’t have been the place of a certain mission Christmas picture. It was not that special. Then we went to the sky bridge in Nantou; there was nice views of Yuanlin and the high speed train there (猴探井天空之橋Houtanjing Street, Nantou City, Nantou County, 540). But it seemed like a place just to take advantage of Chinese tourists. Finally we ate a fine hotpot in Nantou and called it a day.
Zhong Tai Shan （中台山）
Tuesday we made our way to Puli to see the Zhong Tai Shan （中台山）. It was an impressively tall Buddhist temple made by the same architect who designed the 101. We had to wait an hour for the guided tour, but it was worth it. There was a monk there who gave us an English tour. It was interesting to hear the meaning behind the many statues and emblems in the building. We got to go to the upper levels where people normally don’t get to go, probably because we are white. There was an impressive white room as well as a full size wooden pagoda behind a glass curtain. Toward the end of the tour, another monk took us aside and told us the tour was over. We didn’t know if it was because they promised the tour would only be an hour or we were being too disrespectful or because we weren’t Buddhist. We will never know, and we will forever be wierded out.
On Monday we went to Xitou (溪头) which was similar to Alishan but in Nantou. I think the scenery was prettier here. There was a nice rainbow bridge and lots of unique plants. The sacred tree was not as impressive as the one at Alishan though. There was also a nice fishpond and bamboo forest. We didn’t spend any time at the shops, though personally I think the shops at Xitou had a more unique feel than Alishan. Also there were no Chinese tourists here, only Taiwanese people on their regular morning walks.
Next we made our way to Ershui, (二水), to see the monkeys. We got lost, and finally asked a guy who told us that the road was just ahead. But that was all he said. Luckily it was the next road to the left. We walked up the trail a ways before we saw the monkeys, but there was an entire family of about 20 monkeys. It was fun to interact with them and we may or may not have fed them. Matt named a monkey George and tried to adopt it, but it seemed George was happy to stay right where he was.
On Sunday we made our way up to Alishan (Mount Ali 阿里山). It was a very long ride, with windy roads and lots of fog. At the Alishan park were some shops, with decently priced food, and a train that went around the mountain. We took the train over to see that sacred tree when we were once again confronted with hundreds of Chinese tourists taking pictures of everything. The forest was definitely pretty, and there were some huge trees; it was kind of similar to the redwood forest, but there were only a handful of big trees. There was also a peaceful pond (姊妹潭) there that we relaxed at. The shops there were ridiculously overpriced, but among them we found some delicious wasabi peanuts.
We took the train back around the mountain, which we still had to pay for (100-200NT), and had some decent fried rice at one of the restaurants. Then we made our way back down the mountain toward Nantou. On the way down, we tried to take a shortcut down a narrow road, but the fog would only let me see like ten feet in front of us, so I decided to turn back and take the main road where I knew there were at least two lanes. The rest of the way to Nantou went smoothly, and we were able to stay at a friend’s house.
This day we went to an island off the coast of Kaohsiung called 小琉球, Xiao Liu Qiu. We drove to Dong gang 東港, but were not quite sure which boat to take to get there. Parking was cheap, only 30 NT per day. We ended up taking the public ferryboat over. While buying tickets, a lady asked us if we wanted to rent scooters, and set us up with her friend who rents scooters on the island. We paid her right then, which seemed shady but it worked out.
The boat ride was crowded and somewhat slow, but we made it to the island safe and sound. Right when we got off the boat, the scooter rental people found us and took us to our scooters. It was 300 NT per scooter, which is very cheap for scooter rental. We rode around the island on our scooters and saw everything from the shops to the beaches to more beaches and some restaurants. The weather was great. There were a few private beaches that you had to pay to get into which was lame. Also everything seemed to be a little more expensive than one would expect in Kaohsiung. One place that stuck out to me was a mango ice place that served their ice in sea shells, as well as providing sea shell spoons (海の家貝殼海藻冰 address: No. 61, Minsheng Rd, Liuqiu Township, Pingtung County, 929). There was the usual street markets that you would expect to find in Taiwan. I think the most fun part about that island was us just randomly driving all around on those scooters, and going full throttle down the streets.
There was a nice lighthouse at the top of the island but not much of a view. All in all we had a fun time. We almost got lost trying to find the port home; there are three different harbors on the island, and it took us a while to find the third one. The scooter people didn’t even look at our licenses, and they said themselves that helmets were not required. Matt’s military discount ended up being only 50 NT cheaper for the boat ride. We made it safely back and tried to eat at 仁武烤鸭, (renwu roasted duck address: No. 95之21, Fengren Rd, Renwu District, Kaohsiung City, 814), but they close early, 8:00, so we had duck noodles instead, which were fine.
3/27/17 Update: Xiaoliuqiu has some of the best snorkeling in Taiwan. There are snorkeling rental shops and tours all over the island, the usual price being 300 NT for an hour tour per person.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.